PLOT: Tim and Theodore Templeton are all grown up, and they soon realize they must work together when they suspect something might be strange about Tim’s daughter’s prestigious school.
REVIEW: As I walked into the theatre to witness the latest from Dreamworks Animation, the sequel to The Boss Baby, my expectations weren’t high. The original film featuring Alec Baldwin as a genius baby was unremarkable, dull, and wasted too much time on lame potty humor. Thus, the thought of a sequel did not excite me in the slightest. That said, if you’re reviewing a film, you should try your best to be unbiased and not bring in any previous baggage. Even with that attitude, I wasn’t thrilled about sitting down with THE BOSS BABY: FAMILY BUSINESS. Yet sometimes life surprises you, and you do get a box of chocolates instead of a smelly diaper. In other words, the sequel offers an improvement over the stale original. What makes it better? Well, read on and find out.
Theodore Templeton (Alec Baldwin) is all grown up and has become a very successful businessman. Meanwhile, his brother Tim (James Marsden) is a stay-at-home dad. He delights in creating magical moments with his daughters, Tabitha (Ariana Greenblatt) and Tina (Amy Sedaris), while his wife Carol (Eva Longoria) works. However, Tim notices something strange about Tabitha as she appears to be losing interest in father/daughter time. Could it be the typical teen rebellion? Or is something going on at her exclusive school where she excels at everything but her music class? Since this is an adventure, and Jeff Goldblum is in attendance as the head of Tabitha’s school, it’s a safe bet that there’s something unusual going on. Thankfully, Tina takes after her Uncle Theo, and she is part of Baby Corp as well – you know, that group of super-smart babies that Theo was involved with. Will they figure out what’s happening and still make time for a sweet musical number and a lesson learned? I’m sure you can figure that out.
Alec Baldwin as an animated baby is a funny idea. And for a moment or two in the first film, there was a laugh to be found. Yet much of the material fell flat and didn’t inspire much more than a yawn. Mr. Baldwin’s character has grown up for this one. Yet through the magic of fantastical science, he does return to baby form for a bit, as does his brother Tim. Why? Well, in hopes to find out what secret goings-on are happening at Tabitha’s school, the two must work together and go undercover. And thanks to the newest member of Baby Corp., they’re able to transform into their younger selves for a brief period. Once they do, they must find a way to work together, even though neither brother has any idea of the real danger they are about to face. And frankly, when you have a villainous character like the one Jeff Goldblum plays, you know it’s going to be extra demented.
As good as Mr. Baldwin is, the sequel is better thanks to the strong acting chops of both James Marsden and Amy Sedaris. Marsden adds a sweet and sincere nature to Tim. As happy as his family makes him, it’s clear that he deeply misses the relationship he shared with Theodore. The actor brings the character to life effortlessly, and that only helps to connect with the audience. It also makes his relationship with Tabitha all the more charming. And then there is Amy Sedaris, who is exceptionally funny as Tina. The actress is a marvel in roles like this. She brings humor and smarts to the brilliant baby she portrays. Both of these incredible talents help give this sequel life. I also have to offer praise to young Ms. Greenblatt. The actress was exceptional in the recent creature feature with a heart, Love and Monsters, and she is equally good here.
Once again, directed by Tom McGrath, the script for Family Business is an improvement from the first film. Written by Michael McCullers, this story offers up a few ideas that seem perfect for family fare. While much of this does work, it occasionally feels convoluted. All too often it offers too many well-meaning ideas running around that it tends to lessen the enjoyment. Is it a statement on the overuse of technology? Is it simply a case of don’t take your family and loved ones for granted? Or is it that we should just listen to our parents no matter what? As well-meaning as this generally charming film can be, it feels like it’s trying way too hard to feel relevant in today’s world. With that said, the idea that family is important never really gets old. By the time the final act arrives, it’s easy to feel a tinge of aw-shucks as the proper lessons are learned.
The Boss Baby: Family Business is better than the first film in nearly every way. With the smart casting of both James Marsden and Amy Sedaris, the humor and heart are far more satisfying this time around. Sure the message (or messages) are a tad heavy-handed, but there is enough here to make for a sweetly, satisfying family film. And come on, Jeff Goldblum is always marvelous, especially when he gets to play with a character as oddly charismatic as this. If you appreciated the original, you’re more than likely going to enjoy the follow-up. It’s a sweet animated family film that manages to occasionally bring a smile to your face, and I have a feeling the young ones are going to have a good time with this one. It may not be Dreamworks Animation’s finest, but after the mediocre original, this sequel is more than just a baby step in the right direction.